Communication and Rhetorical Studies
McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
Ronald C. Arnett
Janie Harden Fritz
Anxiety, Communication Ethics, McLuhan, Media Ecology, Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology
In 1880 neurologist George Miller Beard identified the diagnosis of neurasthenia. Popularly referred to as Americanitis, Beard treated an increasing number of people for symptoms of anxiety, malaise and gastric discomfort. Per Beard, the illness resulted from the rapidly changing mechanical landscape of modernity. Similarly, contemporary Media Ecology literature suggests that Americanitis continues amidst our current digital moment. Manifest as narcissistically anxious nervous exhaustion, digital Americanitis results due to technological encouragement of existential and communicative closure, thereby negatively implicating the human condition, human communication and communication ethics practices. As such, this project considers Marshall McLuhan’s Media Ecology to examine the communicative phenomena of Americanitis. Based on affable grounding assumptions as well as calls in recent literature, McLuhan’s work is read through the presently underrepresented Media Ecology scholarly approach of existential phenomenology. In particular, this Merleau-Pontean existential phenomenological reading enhances understanding of the implicit theory of human communication and communication ethics informing McLuhan’s Media Ecology criticism. Once elucidated, McLuhan’s theoretical assumptions, aims and ends comport with theoretical dimensions of Merleau-Ponty’s existential phenomenology to reveal how and why technology encourages our digital Americanitis. When placed into conversation, the two thinkers also offer possible responses to our ills – approaches to “taming” Americanitis.
Hunsberger, J. (2016). Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Marshall McLuhan and Communication Ethics: The Taming of Americanitis (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/36